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"Vanished Lands: A New Dawn" Session 40.27 — Skeletal sentinels and the Scarlet Order

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for “Vanished Lands” Session 40.27, which was held on Sunday, 24 August 2014:

Long ago in a distant land, spirits and men directly traded bamboo, silk, and steel. Wars to the west, twisted monsters, and power-hungry sorcerers threatened the eastern kingdoms, so the call went out for new heroes of honor and tact….

Player Character Party 40 in Gene D.’s Vanished Lands: A New Dawn” Asian-style telecom campaign, using the D20 Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game andAdvanced Dungeons & Dragons (1st Ed.) Oriental Adventures, plus house rules,Skype, and an online dice roller, as of summer 2014:

  • Souji Nobuto ‘Sonny’ Yoshimitsu [Beruk A.]-male Shengtese Tian Kensai (eastern human weapon master) from a dishonored house in the Lion Clan, specializing in chain weapons; with talking horse Yip; LNg, Lvl. 7
  • Toshiharu ‘Toshi’ Sembutsu [Byron V.O.]-male Shan Sao Wu Jen (eastern Halfling Wizard) with tiger companion Amaya and a destiny; NGc, Lvl. 7
  • Ember Talon [Sara F.]-female Crane Hengeyokai Wu (shapeshifting Druid), actually a young gold dragon banished from the Celestial Court; NGl, Lvl. 7
  • Soske’ Tiatoshe [Geoff C.]-male Shengtese Tian Shukenja (eastern human Cleric), priest of Shang-ti and animist from the Phoenix Clan, prophesied to do great things; LNg, Lvl. 7
  • Saigo Kasugi [Bruce K./absent]-male Bamboo Spirit Folk Samurai (eastern Sylvan Elf Cavalier) discreetly serving his daimyo; LNg, Lvl. 7
  • Moon Jung-mo [Dexter V.H./absent]-male Nannuattan Ninja (Msamaki, eastern Dark Elf Assassin) who has left the Shadow’s Claw clan and is posing as a River Spirit Folk Yakuza (eastern Grey Elf Rogue); LNg, Lvl. 7

“20 to 22 May 1227 B.C.E.:” Zu Ji, the rogue Shang crown prince, Teleported to Gokuri with some court wizards and guards, leaving Lady Yun Aei-Yong and her retinue to face Lady Fu Hao and her army. The emperor’s favored concubine angrily dismissed the Nannuattan emissary.

The adventurers promised to report on their progress in finding the sources of chaos in the countryside in return for the peaceful restoration of Duke Kou Fei Seng in Sogewa. They continue riding north across the eastern Plains of Sathendo to the demihuman Zedu kingdom.

Jung-Mo continues courting Ember, while Sonny is vindicated in his distrust of Lady Yun. Toshi and Saigo are eager to return to Bazran Hai, capital of their homeland. Soske’ recommends heading northwest, skirting the Therud Forest, rather than following the more heavily traveled Hei Kang River north toward Akilu.

The diplomatic escorts take a road along the Chung Hsien Stream toward the village of Yao Shun. They pass farms, rolling grasslands, and occasional copses of wind-swept trees. The caravan enjoys the pleasant late-spring weather.

Shengtese human Soske’ and Hengeyokai Ember find a campsite for the night. Shengtese Giacomo and Bamboo Spirit Folk Saigo practice their weapons skills and start a fire. Shan Sao Toshi lets his new tiger steed Amaya go hunting.

Spirit Folk Jung-Mo keeps a close watch on the carriage with Lady Yun and her Draconian bodyguard Oh Kum Ja. Sometime later, Sonny and Saigo hear something while on watch.

They creep into the tall grass and dimly spot by moonlight three skull-faced warriors in bronze scale armor riding large stags. The Kensai and Samurai rouse their companions. Jung-Mo and Saigo hang back to guard the camp, and the others saddle their horses to investigate.

Wu Ember Wild Shapes into an owl and flies ahead. She talks with one of the stags, which are not Undead but have glowing eyes. The beast says that the “power of the night compels them to roam.” Soske’ doesn’t Detect Evil.

Soske’ casts Light to get a better look, and the skeletal warriors ride around the camp. The travelers ready weapons and spells, but Soske’ hails the riders. The strange soldiers say they are guardians of a holy site looking for defilers. The Shukenja offers to help, and they ride out together.

Kensai Sonny and Samurai Saigo grumble about taking on every seemingly random mission, but the team comes upon a bowl-shaped hollow with a pool at its center reflecting the starry sky. Animals gather around its perimeter, and a shimmering nature spirit appears.

She greets the newcomers and temporarily confers abilities of the animals on each rider. Sonny gets the Alacrity of the Snake (2 actions per round), and Toshi receives the Might of the Caribou (+4 Str). The glowing woman grants Ember theCunning of the Fox (can reroll any skill check) and Soske’ the Fangs of the Wolf(melee attacks do double damage).

The explorers ride on with the Undead sentinels, and the vegetation beneath their horses’ and stags’ hooves becomes black and swampy. Toshi identifies the cause as a ritual draining life from the area to empower some villains.

Soske’ casts Ancestral Weapon, and a summoned spirit gives him an ice bow and applies the Fangs of the Wolf in return for the promise of a shrine.

Four people appear atop a hill. They appear to be Shengtese humans, but they are dressed strangely. The skeletal warriors lower their lances and charge, followed by the adventuring party.

man wearing stone armor charges at two of the skeletal warriors. A naked Barbarian leaps into the air, grabbing Ember in flight and pulling at her wings. The woman wearing bark casts Warp Wood on Sonny’s items, but he manages to evade her spell.

woman in furs casts Charm Animal, wresting control of tiger Amaya from Toshi, who casts Invisibility on himself and runs. The skeletons attack the Sohei in stone but all miss.

Sonny swings a chain and entangles the Wu in bark. He drags Wei Lingjuan behind his horse, preventing the evil Druid from casting spells. Soske’ fires arrows at naked Fan Kien, injuring him.

Ember surprises everyone by reverting to her true form, that of a gold dragon! Fan Kien is thrown off and starts to flee. However, Xu Song’s stone plates protect him from the skeletons, and he smacks them with his club.

Qiu Ping first directs Amaya to find Toshi but then redirects the tiger toward Sonny, whose flying kicks miss the fur-clad woman. Toshi maneuvers so that Fan Kien is between him and the tiger and the young dragon, whose breath doesn’t affect anyone yet.

Sonny apologizes as he kicks Amaya away, and Soske’ shoots at Wei Lingjuan. Enlarged Ember pounces on the naked man, but the Yamen-ren briefly breaks free and keeps running. Ember pounces on Fan Kien and beheads him with a bite.

Wei Lingjuan casts Grease but is unable to wriggle out of Sonny’s chains. Toshi casts Lightning Bolt on Qiu Ping, who is slain by Sonny. The skeletal warriors eventually get through Xu Song’s stone armor.

Toshi calls to Amaya and gradually calms her. Ember briefly feels a pull to another plane and manages to revert from draconic to humanoid form without ill effect. Sonny whistles for his horse Yip, which drags the bark-clad woman toward him.

Soske’ stops it and asks Wei Lingjuan why she has summoned dark magic. The defiant Druid says that even if she is killed, the Scarlet Order will continue spreading chaos. The skeletons carry out their orders and execute the defiler of nature.

Sonny takes the hide, bark, and stone armor, and Toshi incinerates the corpses before returning to the nature spirit. She thanks them and offers blessings. Sonny interrupts and begs a boon — he says he would like to better communicate with his horse.

The spirit nods before disappearing, and Yip says, “Sonny?”

I hope that everyone enjoyed our latest virtual session, and let me know if you’ll be available next Sunday, Aug. 31. Bruce, I hope your fantasy football draft went well, and we missed you! Dexter, I’m sure you would have enjoyed the cinematic and comedic moments of our encounters.

I look forward to tonight’s “Vanished Lands: Vistel’s Expedition” game at Drew’s place, and we’ll play Memorial Day by ear….

Catching up: Hercules 2014 review

Where did the time go? It seems like only yesterday that I was planning to blog about the then-current genre television season, the various books and comics I've been reading, the convention scene, and upcoming movies and tabletop RPGs.

Granted, I've been busy with work, weekly games, and seasonal festivals, but before they all blur together in memory, let me review some recent films.

On Friday, 25 July 2014, I met Jason E.R. and his son Eric for dinner at Fuddrucker's and an IMAX 3-D showing of Hercules. We enjoyed this sword-and-sandals movie, which starred Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson.

Hercules 2014

Mighty heroes

Plot: Since I had read the Radical Comics miniseries this movie was based on, I wasn't surprised that the 12 labors of Herakles weren't as prominent as in the trailers. In fact, the plot takes the tack that the labors were exaggerated tales of a non-magical band of adventurers.

In this respect, I'd compare 2014's Hercules with the 2004 King Arthur, but with more of a sense of humor. Johnson already proved a worthy successor to Conan: the Barbarian's Arnold Schwarzenegger and Hercules: the Legendary Adventures/Kull the Conqueror's Kevin Sorbo in Scorpion King.

The Rock's shaky computer-animated avatar in The Mummy Returns was one of the few weak spots in that pulp adventure flick. I'd also compare Hercules favorably with the over-the-top 300: Rise of an Empire (but if you like Frank Miller, just wait for Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For). I'd even argue that Hercules was more faithful in spirit, if not in specifics, to its source material than Jason Momoa's Conan or the dour Man of Steel.

Cast: Even if Hercules' script is occasionally weak or predictable, Johnson is ably supported by Ian McShane as fatalist mystic Amphiaraus, Rufus Sewell as mercenary Autolycus, and John Hurt as aged Lord Cotys. Joseph Fiennes follows in his brother's footsteps (Ralph was Voldemort in the Harry Potter franchise) as the scheming King Eurystheus.

The younger actors are also decent, including Askel Hennie as traumatized Viking Tydeus (it's fantasy, don't sweat it), Reece Ritchie as Hercules' kinsman and storyteller Iolaus, and Ingrid Bolso Berdal as the Amazonian Atalanta. The White Queen's Rebecca Ferguson is Princess Ergenia, and model Irina Shayk is Hercules' wife Megara. Some viewers will recognize character names from Greek mythology, TV's Legendary Adventures, or even the Disney animated musical, but this is a different take on most of them.

Direction/cinematography: It's too bad that years of computer-assisted effects have left us jaded to visions of monsters, large armies maneuvering on battlefields, and feats of strength and acrobatics. The action scenes in Hercules were generally well choreographed, and the movie was well paced.

I liked the glimpses of mythical beasts, the use of phalanx and archers on chariots, and even the cheesier moments of Hercules in chains. The Steve Reeves and Ray Harryhausen classics have nothing to worry about, but it's still nice to see a deconstruction that doesn't completely tear down fun, larger-than-life spectacle.

Rating: Jason, Eric, Byron V.O., and I all liked Hercules more than fellow role-player Rich C.G. I'd give Hercules a 7.5 out of 10, a solid "B," or four out of five stars. This is the sort of movie I'd classify as a "gamer flick," with an entertaining ensemble of misfits doing heroic deeds but not necessarily aspiring to subgenre greatness.

I've heard that this movie was better than the other Hercules film of earlier this year. Although Luc Besson and Scarlett Johannson's Lucy (more on that later) beat Hercules at the box office, I wouldn't mind seeing a sequel featuring Johnson and that first superhero team, Jason and the Argonauts. Now, who to cast?

Fun and games in June and July 2014

As usual, the start of summer has been busy. On Saturday, 21 June 2014, Janice and I went to the Compleat Strategist in Boston for Free RPG Day. We then met role-players Beruk A., Rich C.G., and some of Rich's friends at Pandemonium Books & Games in Cambridge, Mass.

I picked up free fantasy supplements for Castles & Crusades, Dungeon Crawl Classics, and Pathfinder, as well as quickstarters for the superhero Valiant Universe and cyberpunk/fantasy Shadowrun. Clearly, I'm still in a retro-clone, old-school Renaissance (OSR) frame of mind.

Other recent acquisitions include Arrows of Indra, Celestial Empire, and the FATE (Core) Freeport Companion, all of which should be useful for my long-running "Vanished Lands" campaign, which is currently using D20/FATE house rules.

As you may have seen by now, I ran four games in one week! After the latest Creation Star Trek convention in Boston (more on that later), I ran my usual "Vanished Lands: A New Dawn" telecom team on Sunday, June 22. The Player Characters encountered monsters while scouting an army approaching the city of Sogewa.

On Monday, June 23, the "Vanished Lands: Vistel's Expedition" face-to-face group continued its adventures. That adventuring party has traveled through time to free some slaves.

Byron V.O., an alumnus of the Boston-area groups who now lives in St. Louis and participates in "A New Dawn" via Skype, stayed with Janice and me after a business trip back east. On Friday, June 27, I ran an extra "Vistel's Expedition" session, and Byron and I were pleased at the strong turnout.

Byron V.O.'s June 2014 visit

"Vistel's Expedition," summer 2014

On Saturday, June 28, I ran "Star Trek: Restoration," and it was nice to host a smaller group for the first time since moving from Needham to Waltham, Mass. The crew of the U.S.S. Rotha was involved in a tense standoff with Romulan warbirds!

After that afternoon session, we met Thomas K.Y. & Kai-Yin H. and Josh C. for a solid Italian dinner at Fiorella's in Newton. Byron, who is always a good houseguest and fun gaming companion, left on Sunday, June 29.

On Monday, June 30, Josh ran a one-shot of Tianxia: Blood, Silk & Jade, using FATE Core (reminding me of what I like and what I'd tweak). That wuxia (Asian-style fantasy) scenario was among the one-shots and miniseries my groups have tried out each summer in between longer campaigns.

Pregenerated P.C.s for "Hammer, Don't Touch This!" — Josh C.'s Tianxia one-shot at Brian W.'s home in Newton, Mass.:

  • "Ma Wei Sheng" [Gene D.]-male eastern human, wandering nobleman, taciturn warrior determined to get out from his family's shadow and make a name for himself
  • "Smiling Ox" [Beruk A.]-male human, master of the Demon Hammer, boastful brute with large appetites and a heart of gold
  • "Sister Chuntao" [Brian W.]-female human, Bodhist nun and former thief, conscious of checkered past and seeking harmony, with monkey Sun
  • "Jasmina" [Sara F.]-female tiger, talking animal with scars and a strong sense of justice
  • "Han 'Dragon Dog' Ping" [Bruce K.]-male human, enthusiastic young adventurer and working-class hero
  • "Yee Wong" [Rich C.G.]-male human, old Daoist wizard, immortal but absent-minded and irascible alchemist
  • "Wolf-Eyed Yue" [Brian S.]-female human, wild woman and member of the secret White Widow sect devoted to helping women defend themselves

The Boston-area and telecom games took a break around the Independence Day weekend, during which Janice and I hosted one of our nieces. During the latest "JasonCon" on Monday, July 7, Jason E.R. (whose "Glassworks: the Devil's Den" superhero scenario using Icons: Great Power recently ended) graciously hosted Rich's School Daze, a narrative, rules-light game typically focusing on high school archetypes.

P.C.s for Rich C.G.'s third School Daze session, held in Reading, Mass.:

  • "Emo Wallach" [Gene D.]-male human goth, junior at Trowbridge High School specializing in art and comfortable in dank spaces; discovered a dead dog and classmate during a stormy night at Camp Crystal Lake; later a friend of "Reasonable Squid" reporter Cynthia Hoskins
  • "Chuck Taylor" [Jason E.R.]-male human jock, Trowbridge senior and friend of "Fighting Krakens" water polo Coach Bronkowski and his bullying son Murphy, helped defeat a homicidal alien with surprise tire-iron attacks; after a change of heart, became a nerd defender
  • "Brandon Shaw" [Bruce K.]-male human, shop yank and Trowbridge junior, prone to bad humor; fancies himself a ladies' man and good with an axe in a scrap
  • "Alan Morris" [Brian S.]-male human Trowbridge senior and budding filmmaker; friend of Henry Lee Jackson, an old hermit with a hook hand; recorded attack by assistant camp leader "Ms. Bellum," who was actually a mantis-like alien; dating Chuck's younger sister Tracy
  • "Feskilado 'Fesky' Mepeselph" [Erik R.]-male human Trowbridge senior, science and clank/electronics expert; snuck pet dogs and cat into camp; later found beheaded, and cat Severus was revealed as an alien guardian

I expect "A New Dawn" to resume this coming Sunday, July 13, and Bruce K. will begin his "Eberron/Pathfinder: Reign of Winter" miniseries next Monday. So many games, so little time!

In related news, the Dungeons & Dragons (5e/"Next") Basic Rules have been released. While there are no earth-shattering revelations, especially after a lengthy playtest period, I'm pleased that Wizards of the Coast released this as a free PDF.

As I've noted elsewhere, this looks closer to what I would have preferred for D&D4e, with a mix of AD&D2 style and D&D3.5/D20/4e rules. We'll still have to wait and see whether D&D5e will tempt role-players away from Pathfinder, OSR, and various indie systems.

"Vanished Lands: Vistel's Expedition" Session 39.37 — Hidden doors and dracosaurs

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for “Vanished Lands” Session 39.37, which Brian W. hosted in Newton, Mass., on Monday, 14 April 2014:

In one ancient world, there was a region where strange majicks and demihuman races thrived. The “Vanished Lands” were blessed by the gods and cursed by prophecy. Travelers became adventurers, and adventurers strove to be heroes in the face of many perils and wonders.

Various groups of mercenaries and diplomats have fought humanoids in the northwestern borderlands, encountered pirates on the Sea of Nagendwa, and wandered the hostile Halmed Desert and the wide Plains of Sathendo….

“Vistel’s Circus,” Player Character Party 39 in Gene D.’s " Vanished Lands " heroic fantasy campaign, using the Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game and FATE 3e Legends of Anglerre, as of spring 2014:

  • Giacomo ‘the Mysterious’ Du Vane [Beruk A.]-male Hifalendorin human Mage (Gypsy Wizard) and stage seer, embittered by experiences in Hesolin’s Magisterium; with homunculus familiar Gerald; NGc, Lvl. 8
  • Hamfast Hammerfist [Brian W.]-male Zeda (proto-Germanic) human Fighter, mountaineer, “barbarian” strongman, and laborer; TNg, Lvl. 8
  • Scully Strongbow [Sara F.]-female albino Gnoll (Flind) Ranger, archer, knife thrower, and scout, with owl “Owlicious”; NGl, Lvl. 8
  • Corwin Windsong [Bruce K.]-male Half-Elf Bard, runaway aristocrat, ladies’ man, and former ringmaster with a mandolin; CNg, Lvl. 8
  • Elsa Fairbottom [Rich C.G.]-female Hill Dwarf Druid outcast, cook/brewer, and animal handler with Banuq (winged cat) Penryn; NGc, Lvl. 8
  • Tempestade [Josh C.]-male Barbari human Monk (Battledancer/capoeirista from outside the “Vanished Lands”), former roustabout, now a follower of Otih; CGl, Lvl. 8
  • Radius [Jason E.R./departed]-male Modron Paladin of Primus, lord of Nirvana; exiled to the Prime Material plane; LGn, Lvl. 5
  • Sir Torrel [Alex W./departed]-male Hifalendorin human Paladin of Otih, the lord of the sun and justice; LGn, Lvl. 7

“1 to 2 March 1227 B.C.E.:” The infiltrators continued exploring the tunnels of Mt. Tilefa on Salhonif Island. They chatted with Gargoyles and Troglodytes, evaded traps and Ogres, and fought a librarian/sorceress. They also defeated flesh golems before resting, deep in a Temple of Elemental Evil.

The adventuring party recuperates from recent skirmishes in a dark vestibule. One passage has doglike figurines on pedastals and Walls of Force, another leads to a hexagonal chamber with a black orb, and the last leads back through a purple-carpeted passage with statues in alcoves.

Giacomo manifests a third eye to peer around, and Hamfast looks at three levers behind a curtain on one wall. Scully looks for illusions with the Lens of True Sight, while Tempestade keeps watch. Corwin dismisses Herme, the Girallon (four-armed gorilla) he had charmed, and searches for traps. Elsa also tries to decipher the switches.

Despite his companions’ warnings, Hamfast pulls on the left lever. A stone column rises out of the floor near the door to the hexagonal room. The middle switch raises a second column next to the door. The Zeda human resets the first two levers and pulls just the third, and a horn sounds.

As Gnoll Scully predicts, when the three levers are pulled from left to right, a portal appears between them, obscuring the unholy shrine with the dark cyst. Giacomo and Corwin step through first and are attacked by three Wights.

Half-Elf Corwin casts Fireball, damaging the Undead, but he is weakened by their chill touch. Hill Dwarf Elsa Wild Shapes into a bird of prey, and Hifalendorin human Giacomo destroys all three Wights with Magic Missiles.

Elsa flies up with a rope, and the group climbs out of a volcanic crater. Unfortunately, two huge reptiles are waiting for them — strange crossbreeds of dinosaurs (found in Salhonif Isle’s jungles) and black dragons!

Dragon-dinosaur crossbreed

Dracosaur

One dracosaur breathes acid, burning Hamfast and Scully. Tempestade uses hisRing of Jumping and Boots of Spider Climb to get on the monster’s back. Pious Elsa invokes goddess Mekkil (Gaia) for a Healing Burst to aid her companions.

Giacomo shields the team with a Wall of Force, and Corwin’s Disintegrate injures one of the creatures. Scully uses the Lens of True Sight to discern that the larger dracosaur is more like a dragon and the other is less intelligent. Hamfast swings his maul at the leg of the winged beast.

The dinodrag grabs Hamfast in its mouth! The Fighter narrowly avoids being swallowed whole by keeping the haft of his hammer in its jaws. The dracosaur with Tempestade on its back yells at the martial artist and claws at Scully.

Tempestade chokes the creature with his chain, and Druid Elsa Wild Shapes into an elephant. Wizard Giacomo casts Ray of Enfeeblement on the reptile holding Hamfast, slowing it. Bard Corwin defensively casts Mirror Image, creating four duplicates of himself.

Ranger Scully looses a volley of arrows, and Hamfast pulls himself clear of the toothy maw and backs up with a spear. The dracosaur strikes Corwin’s duplicates, as the dinodrag swings at Elsa. Tempestade continues choking the latter lizard and jumps clear when elephantine Elsa charges and knocks it down.

Giacomo successfully casts Paralysis on the dinodrag and Magic Missile on the dracosaur. Corwin hits with his sword and dagger. Scully shoots more arrows, and Elsa tramples her foe. Hamfast cooly finishes off the two creatures and claims some teeth.

Gerald, Giacomo’s homunculus familiar, removes the dead dinosaurs’ eyes, and Scully takes some hides. She and Sir Torrel attend to the wounded. Elsa spots a concealed door, and Corwin finds a polished stone set in brass like a knob on the opposite wall.

Corwin puts the knob on the door. The Saganim prince barely dodges a spike trap. A man wearing a horned helmet and a loose robe floats toward the spelunkers. He says that they will soon serve his master, the Pit Fiend Schm*ckF*ck, or realize their worst nightmares.

Before the cultist can cast any deadly spells, Elsa restrains him with Hold Person. Corwin ties a rope around the hovering man and pulls him down. Hamfast, Scully, and Tempestade help disarm Tychon Doomdreamer, and Giacomo tries to blind him with Color Spray.

Further interrogation reveals that Tychon is insane and homicidal, and Corwin dispatches him. The devil worshipper’s possessions include a censor and three balls of odiferious incense, a potion of Haste (given to nimble Tempestade), and enchanted full plate (+2, claimed by mighty Hamfast).

Cautious Giacomo puts 30 crowns (gold pieces) in the party pool, and Elsa studies an unholy symbol of a crescent moon or horns with a bloody spike. Perceptive Scully notes that the party still needs to find the contract binding Lady Shadira, an Efreeti trapped in Shambling Mound form.

Tempestade had promised to help free the devil’s slave as part of his quest to return his distant homeland via a magical obelisk in the barbaric port of Gisar. Corwin turns the knob to the left, and the door opens into a well-furnished room, probably Tychon’s quarters.

Giacomo ignores the tattoo of “Mad Mage” Ezra on his back and claims the bed for a nap. The others search a dresser and chest. They find 450 crowns, an ornate bracelet worth 240 g.p., and a potion of Darkvision. Corwin uses a wand of Dispel Magic to circumvent wards on a case containing scrolls of Commune, Heroes’ Feast, and Raise Dead.

Under a false bottom in one drawer, Scully finds the insane Cleric’s journal and a partial map of the volcanic warrens. Hamfast recommends resting in the room, which is hidden and defensible.

The spellcasters recommend trying to turn the knob the other way and find a passage leading to other parts of the Temple of Elemental Evil….

Alex, we miss “Sir Torrel,” but we wish you luck with work and your Saturday group! While I won’t be running the “Vanished LandsA New Dawn” telecom game this coming Sunday, April 20, I look forward to seeing some of you next Monday night.

"Vanished Lands: A New Dawn" Session 40.13 — Tower and Tong

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for “Vanished Lands” Session 40.13, which was held on Sunday, 9 March 2014:

Long ago in a distant land, spirits and men directly traded bamboo, silk, and steel. Wars to the west, twisted monsters, and power-hungry sorcerers threatened the eastern kingdoms, so the call went out for new heroes of honor and tact….

Player Character Party 40 in Gene D.’s Vanished Lands: A New Dawn” Asian-style telecom campaign, using the Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1st Ed.) Oriental Adventures, plus house rulesSkype, and an online dice roller, as of spring 2014:

  • Souji Nobuto ‘Sonny’ Yoshimitsu [Beruk A.]-male Shengtese Tian Kensai (eastern human weapon master) from a dishonored house in the Lion Clan, specializing in chain weapons; LNg, Lvl. 4
  • Toshiharu ‘Toshi’ Sembutsu [Byron V.O.]-male Shan Sao Wu Jen (eastern Halfling Wizard) from the Tiger Clan with a destiny; NGc, Lvl. 4
  • Ember Talon [Sara F.]-female Crane Hengeyokai Wu (shapeshifting Druid), actually a young gold dragon banished from the Celestial Court; NGl, Lvl. 4
  • Saigo Kasugi [Bruce K.]-male Bamboo Spirit Folk Samurai (eastern Sylvan Elf Cavalier) discreetly serving his daimyo; LNg, Lvl. 4
  • Soske’ Tiatoshe [Geoff C.]-male Shengtese Tian Shukenja (eastern human Cleric), priest of Shang-ti and animist from the Phoenix Clan, prophesied to do great things; LNg, Lvl. 4
  • Moon Jung-mo [Dexter V.H.]-male Nannuattan Ninja (Msamaki, eastern Dark Elf Assassin) who has left the Shadow’s Claw clan and is posing as a River Spirit Folk Yakuza (eastern Grey Elf Rogue); LNg, Lvl. 4

“12 to 16 April 1227 B.C.E.:” The wanderers questioned bandit Shiskikura Eiji about Undead farmers, and they smote ghoulish children at another abandoned farm. After confronting an angry mob of villagers, the group found and slayed three witches before deciding to leave Chin Mok.

Rather than stop in the villages of Chung Kwang Shui or Honeize, the team escorting Nannuattan emissary Lady Yun Aei-Yong decides to head directly across the eastern Plains of Sathendo. The town of Kuan Chou is 540 li (about 120 miles) east of Chin Mok, and a canal leads 224 li (50 miles) from it to Sogewa, the capital of Tong Sheng.

For the first time in weeks, the party rides across the wide-open grasslands without being attacked by bandits, Undead, or summoned monsters. The spring rains, however, slow their horses and Jung-Mo’s carriage, in which Lady Yun and her Draconian bodyguard Oh Kum Ja ride.

That night, Ember finds a campsite partly sheltered from the rain. While on first watch, Saigo notices Jung-Mo looking at a large egg inside a lacquered box. Saigo inquires about the unidentified brown and blue egg, and Jung-Mo asks him to keep it between them.

Later, during a thunderstorm, lightning illuminates a tower on a nearby hill. Sonny and Ember wake Saigo to report what they saw, and he agrees that it may be worth investigating on the way the next morning.

Toshi and Soske’ spot lights in the pagoda during the third and final watch of the night. The next morning, Jung-Mo and Toshi scout ahead. The Yakuza is stealthy, and the Wu Jen casts Chameleon for camouflage.

Jung-Mo senses movement within the stone tower and begins scaling it. Toshi casts Know History and learns that the pagoda is named Kai Sou Xian Haknam, or “the castle of Master Haknam.”

Unfortunately, Jung-Mo kicks out a loose brick and has to use Levitate to keep from falling or being seen by a guard. Toshi hides and Detects Magic from a number of sources. Wu Ember shifts into crane form and flies overhead to check on her companions.

They regroup with Saigo, Soske’ and the horses. The adventuring party decides to give the tower a wide berth. Samurai Saigo recognizes a pennant flying from the top as belonging to Zhan-Shi Hu Ho, a disgraced officer in the Shengtese army.

The next night, Spirit Folk Saigo and Jung-Mo hear animals but are not attacked during their watch. The caravan continues eastward, with no other people in sight. The Kwang Shui, Hothe, and Kuo Lui streams are easily forded, and the diplomatic escort arrives at the bustling town of Kuan Chou.

Shengtese humans Sonny and Soske’ know their way around. The Kensai is wary of certain clans, and the Shukenja hopes to avoid his meddling family. Shan Sao Toshi practices his martial arts in the morning with Sonny and asks about a Magisterium (magic school).

Saigo talks with Lady Yun about her plans for Sogewa. The representative of Gokuri says that she shouldn’t need an escort as she relays the truce to Duke Kou Fei Seng, but she will eventually need to travel north, to Bazran Hai in Saigo’s homeland of the Zedu kingdom.

Like Jung-Mo and Saigo, Ember hasn’t been to a large human city before, so she hopes to go sightseeing. While Saigo is still searching for his missing grandfather, Hengeyokai Ember wants to evade notice.

Saigo, Toshi, and Soske’ report to the local garrison at Kuan Chou. They meet Hiroshi Sanlang, a young warrior who recommends the “Happy Duck” hotel. The trio also passes vagrants and searches for a Magisterium but finds none.

Meanwhile, Ember, Sonny, and Jung-Mo stay with Lady Yun and Oh Kum Ja at the town gate. Chain master Sonny observes Monks among the street performers and acrobats, and Druid Ember looks out for fellow shapeshifters. Merchant Jung-Mo points out gangs of young men who might belong to the Tong or Yakuza.

Ember notices that the carriage’s curtain pulled aside, and Sonny asks Lady Yun to be more discreet. He leaves Jung-Mo at the reins as he runs after someone suspicious who has spotted the Dark Elf. After a brief chase, Sonny corners the man in an alley.

The goon tries to shove Sonny into a wall, but the Kensai dodges and punches him in the stomach. Despite being winded, the man calls for help and pulls a balisong (butterfly knife) from his orange sash.

Saigo, Toshi, and Jung-Mo return to the carriage and horses, and Ember sends Saigo and Toshi after Sonny. Ember and Jung-Mo look for a stable to get out of the street, while the others ask a beggar for directions.

Sonny tries to sweep his opponent’s leg, but he is nimble. Sonny strikes twice as Toshi and Saigo race members of the town guard to the scene. Wizard Toshi casts Updraft, lifting the man 30 feet and dropping him.

Saigo stalls the police by explaining how his friend was almost mugged. They find the man in the orange sash with broken bones. The sentries send for a healer and take the unconscious man into custody, but they also ask the knight and company to stay in town for a day or so in case they have further questions.

The travelers go to the “Happy Duck,” where they plan to take a barge on the canal between the Chuan Hosun and Chung Hsien rivers to speed their trip from Kuan Chou to Sogewa, capital of the Principality of Silado….

Remember to review your Player Character records on Obsidian Portal and let me know of any changes. In addition, note that our next “A New Dawn” virtual session on Sunday, 16 March 2014, will start a little later, around 7:30 p.m. Eastern time, because I’ll be getting back from a concert.

I also enjoyed last night’s “Vanished Lands: Vistel’s Circus” face-to-face game, and I look forward to resuming Jason E.R.’s “Glassworks: the Devil’s Den” superhero scenario next Monday. Don’t forget to reply to Thomas K.Y. regarding upcoming movies.